Notes for Ocasio

rosie riveter image It is a crying shame that our recently-sanctified Constitution here in the USA makes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, because of her youth, ineligible to be President.  Of course, this same foundational law also enshrines the over-representation of small states and sometimes puts election losers into the world’s most powerful office, so we have larger structural problems. There’s also the problem of the overwhelming dominance of commercial forces in what passes for civil society.

Nonetheless, the pursuit of a Green New Deal strikes DbC as perhaps the best new thing to arrive in American political life since the 1960s.

At this point, the core document in this new endeavor is this proposed Congressional Resolution.

To her credit, AOC includes transportation as a major element of the proposed GND.

There are, however, several aspects of the pertinent language that could benefit from further thought.

Here is the transportation passage in question:

The ‘‘Green New Deal mobilization’’…will require the following goals and projects….(H) overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in—

(i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing;

(ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transit; and

(iii) high-speed rail.

FWIW, here are DbC‘s friendly criticisms:

1. “Transportation” in the United States means automobiles, which are the technology around which our corporate capitalist overclass has long (and extremely successfully) pushed us to build our whole society. Our main transportation problem is the reign of the automobile, the long-standing elite insistence on cars-first transportation policy and practice. Any imaginably adequate effort to address this reality must start by directly stating its existence.

2. The nation’s automotive fleet is now our #1 domestic GHG pollution source, having recently surpassed the electricity generation industry for that dishonor. As such, it belongs at the top of the list of reforms. This should be Item A, not Item H, on the GND project agenda.

3. There is no such thing as a zero-emission automobile. Not even close. “Electric” cars run mostly on coal, nuclear, and natural gas, and building a solar-and-wind-only grid capable of powering 250 million automobiles is almost surely impossible, and itself not a zero-emission undertaking. And this addresses neither the question of how “electric” vehicles are to be manufactured, nor their current status as haloware enabling exploding SUV sales.

4. Public transit and rail are extremely important aspects of any imaginably adequate reform of “transportation” in the United States; yet if they are pursued as mere add-ons to existing cars-first infrastructure and residential spreads, they will end up being mere palliatives, at best.

5. Any imaginably adequate reduction in US greenhouse gas emissions will require an end to cars-first transportation policy and practice here.

6. Ending cars-first transportation in the United States will require radical reconstruction of the entirety of our geo-social infrastructure, including big changes in the form and geographic distribution of our housing stock.

7. It will require way more than ten years to accomplish this necessary project.

8. It would be wise to start mentioning the Second World War along with the New Deal, since sufficient reconstruction will require that level of mobilization and that much public management of economic power.

9. You might also start mentioning Reconstruction I, since this proposed aspect of Reconstruction II offers immense promise for repairing the gigantic crimes inherent in the abandonment of Reconstruction I.

Department of Yes

money cornucopia imageTrump is a logical endpoint of Reaganism, which has never yet — not even now — been opposed, since it emerged.

In subtler times, the overclass merely used GM heads to front the Pentagon. Now, they need not feign even that much distance. Boeing execs now sit themselves right down in the public seat, to zero controversy.

The attached talk, never very subtle, is now utterly shameless.

According to The New York Times, here is what the new Defense Secretary said at a recent insider meeting:

“We are not the Department of No,” Mr. Shanahan told Pentagon officials after Space Force was announced.

Not the Department of No. Mark that one down.

The military being a department of yeses is extremely relevant to the ongoing reign of the automobile, since both that phenomenon and the Pentagon budget pass the social order stringent apublic-spending litmus test. The terms of that test come straight from corporate capitalism, which mandates that government spending be huge and growing, yet occur only in the very few product-usage areas that neither directly supplant capitalist sales nor establish precedents harmful to the reigning insistence that profit-maximizers’ schemes are the only possible way to meet human needs.

Mexican Auto Industry Association

This post is no endorsement of any of the extreme dangers nationalism, Trumpism, or automobile manufacturing. Nevertheless, get a load of the membership of the “Mexican” auto industry’s trade group:

logo of MAIA

It would be fascinating to see a proper accounting of how money flows into and out of this industry, and to whose benefit.

But its speaks volumes about our world that such groups exist.

First World Problems

The automobile dominates the United States because it is the best possible platform for advancing the cause of sellable waste, which is itself a systemic requirement for the perpetuation of corporate capitalism.

The SUV/pickup breakthrough of the 1990s was a huge advance in the history of car-marketing, as we all know, but never properly discuss.

A socio-economic system addicted to unending expansion of sellable waste also implies the radical, unending commodification and commercialization of host societies.

Tracking and elucidating all this is, of course, one purpose of Death by Car.

Having been reminded of this, contemplate one of the latest logical manifestations of the whole shebang: the “Will it Fit?” feature of edmunds.com’s mobile device app:

Does that speak volumes, or what?

Those Who Love Hurricanes

Corporate capitalism, by design, commodifies everything and mal-distributes income. As a result, it paints its own primary beneficiaries into a corner, even as it sustains their obscene wealth and increasingly decrepit power. As silly products proliferate and the bottom 2/3 of the population goes without discretionary income, it gets harder and harder for corporate marketers to sell new rounds of goods and services. The only possible answer, from the perspective of the investing class, is selling more and more waste to people who still have money to spend.

The ultimate corporate capitalist waste platform is the private automobile. Within a publicly-provided cars-first infrastructure, such machines are not only themselves spectacularly and optimally wasteful, but also enable and stimulate the second great vector for profitable squander, the suburban house-and-yard.

For cars themselves, the ultimate dream for capitalists would be the one described in The Waste Makers, Vance Packard’s 1960 non-fiction best-seller:

The motorcars of Cornucopia will be made of a lightweight plastic that develops fatigue and begins to melt if driven for more than four thousand miles.

That, of course, was an illustrative exaggeration. Individual car owners will not tolerate such directly obvious capitalist tactics. They demand some longevity with their waste.

But consider what we will tolerate collectively: For car-sellers, Hurricane Harvey is very good news, for exactly Packard’s reason. Per today’s edition of Automotive News:

With the storm potentially having damaged 1 million vehicles in Houston, the rush is on in states near and far to acquire and ship new ones into the city.

“We see multi-faceted benefits to new vehicle sales, new vehicle inventories, and used vehicle prices,” Ryan Brinkman, an auto analyst with JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a report Tuesday. Prior to Harvey, weak used-car values had been one of investors’ “chief concerns” with the auto industry, he said.

Such is the stuff of 2017. Our grandchildren will never stop vomiting.

For the Kids

Here’s one your children and grandchildren will appreciate. It’s what the Democratic Party’s Congresscritter has to say about relaxing the rules for making and selling the machine that’s destroying the material basis for future civilization.

“Our bill makes simple changes so our manufacturers, suppliers, and workers can continue to make the best products in the world.”

This machine, of course, just happens to be the lifeblood of corporate capitalism and the unaccountable, decrepit overclass it sustains. Hence, such über-Orwellian stuff. “The best products in the world!”

McKibben Still Has No Clue

windmill-tilt Bill McKibben, never one to think too hard about his own limitations, still says “the source of the problem” is “the fossil fuel industry and its lock on Washington.” That’s like saying the problem in Greensboro in 1960 was the cheeseburgers.

The fossil fuel industry, for starters, is largely the oil industry, which is a subsidiary component of the automotive-industrial complex. That, the promoter of one of corporate capitalism’s few true core commodities — the private automobile — is, in turn, a literal institutional requirement of corporate capitalism. Corporate capitalism, which requires the reign of the car plus its half-dozen other major industrial complexes/capital-friendly-forms-of-colossal-ecocidal-waste-in-which-fossil-fuel-combustion-is-but-a-symptom, is the source of the problem.

Anybody who can’t or won’t say that is no friend of the dwindling prospect of progressive human survival. “Green car” is a screamingly obvious oxymoron. Yet, the entire anti-fossil-fuels movement is premised on at least implying the contrary.

History suggests that social movements face enough obstacles. There is simply no room for adding in the fatal error of being coy and/or deluded about what we need and demand.

Capitalism Eats the Planet

earthapple This is how they do it:

Driven by the rise of the millennial generation and a global growth boom, the auto industry is in the midst of a new golden age, said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co. COO, in a speech at the Automotive News World Congress. The industry should take advantage of that to lure new talent, he said. Fields called it “the most exciting time for the auto industry in the last 25 years.”

Growth of small cars and luxury sales are pushing industry growth from different ends.

“There are 2.1 billion people reaching driving age in countries where the number of middle-income consumers is growing. These countries have huge potential for growth of first time buyers,” he said.

“Today the luxury segment accounts for 8 percent of the total global market,” he said. “Globally, the luxury market is forecast to add approximately 2.3 million vehicles in the next five years — with lots of opportunity in markets like China, the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Brazil.”

An exciting golden age, indeed! Is this how Thelma and Louise felt in their last 30 seconds?

[Source: Automotive News, January 14, 2014]

Cars Before Houses

kittygun Part of the reason corporate capitalists are addicted to selling automobiles is the fact that, once the inherently sprawling, alternative-discouraging infrastructure for cars-first transportation is fully built, that infrastructure renders car ownership almost literally necessary. To forgo a car is to add extra risk and time constraint to lives already unfolding amid insecure and decaying economic and social conditions.

I mention this because of this interesting story from today’s edition of the mighty USA Today.

Seems that, among the population who incur both forms of debt (and the rich pay cash for cars, by the way), people are four times more likely to make late payments on their mortgages than on their car loans.

The reason?:

Felicia Young of Tampa says paying her auto loan became more important in the last two years.

“When my credit scores declined and I was facing removal from my house, my car suddenly became the only item I had worth anything,” says the 45-year-old, who holds both full- and part-time jobs as an administrative officer.

Young adds that she needs her car “to get to work and make money. Period.”

“If push comes to shove, you can live in your car,” Becker says. “But you can’t drive your house to work.”

No wonder the overclass insists that the current American lifestyle is non-negotiable.

Super Bowl Ads as Evidence

nfl_car Corporate capitalists are addicted to selling automobiles. Neither rain nor sleet nor Peak Oil nor World War III will divert them from their money-making mission.

Hence, the unchanging nature of the “greatest spectacle in American sports,” the Super Bowl. Like both the National Football League and the whole of American television, it remains, first and foremost, a behavior-modification project whose main sponsor remains the automotive-industrial complex, which itself remains the indispensable heart of the capitalist economic order.

According to this piece from The Huffington Post, there were 60 commercials — not counting five ads referring viewers back to the NFL and this year’s Super Bowl broadcaster NBC — run during yesterday’s broadcast. (Note: If the widely reported cost of $3.5 million per ad — almost 100 times the rate charged for ads during Super Bowl I — is correct, that means the 2012 Super Bowl show generated $210 million of advertising revenue for NBC, not counting any ads promoting the game in advance.)

By DbC‘s count, 21 of the 60 Super Bowl XLVI ads were for cars, tires, or cars.com.

As for the content of these ads, there was, of course, zero acknowledgment that anything has changed since the days of the Studebaker. Indeed, none other than Clint Eastwood, after a couple decades of decent movie making, took his opportunity to jump his own personal shark by appearing as a mindless tough guy in a Chrysler ad assuring everybody that it’s merely “halftime” in the great American project of cars-first living.

Wanna bet, Dirty Harry?